7 questions to ask before you touch your authoring tool, or your content

Great digital learning helps close real gaps for your audience. For example, a succinct on the job performance aid that helps overcome a problem there and then. But where does the process start? It starts with defining those gaps, and exploring the kind of experience that will help your audience get there. Not sure how? Here are 7 questions you can ask as part of your learning needs analysis… or skip straight to our free template to help you capture learner needs.

1. What’s the actual problem? Also known as, ‘Why does your learning deserve to exist?’

What’s your problem? No, really. If you’re investing in a digital learning solution, then you’ve got to be crystal clear on the true size and shape of the problem it’s designed to meet. Get a handle on what the overall goal is. Is there a need to drive sales, increase customer satisfaction scores, bring about more profits, retain top talent and support their career growth, or something else?

If the answer you hear is “so they know” or “because they have to,” then play the four-year-old card: “Why? Why? Why?”

2. Who is it for?

For us, the audience is the true starting point. Successful digital learning content tends to meet a need, be targeted and/or provide an engaging and insightful learning experience that gets people thinking, reevaluating and changing behaviors. You can only do these if you truly understand the audience and their situation – and listen to what they say they need. If there’s a problem in the business to fix, what’s the context around that area of practice? What goes well; where are mistakes made; when do people need help; how does the audience currently seek help; are all the audience members in the same boat (doubt it); what single improvement or intervention would make all the difference to them and what they do?

There’s so much you can ask, and we haven’t even touched on the audience’s digital behaviors. But get asking so you can provide some digital learning that closes a real gap; the accumulative effect of closing a specific performance gap for everyone is huge.

Consider Surveys, Analytics, Conversations, Observations, Recording footage.

Elucidat can be used to survey your audience about their needs. You can then see the live responses in your Analytics Dashboard, including qualitative comments.

3. Why isn’t the target audience doing that thing you need them to do already?

Finding the right kind of solution can only be done if you know what kind of problem you’re facing. What obstacles stand in the way between where your audience is now and where you need them to get? They:

  • Don’t know they should even be doing that thing – indicates an awareness problem
  • Know about it, but don’t care about it – indicates a motivation or relevance problem
  • Don’t know how to apply it – indicates a “learning” problem, albeit some best practice examples
  • Don’t have the skills to do it – indicates a wider “learning” problem where skills and competence need to be built up
  • Don’t have the on the job support to help them do it – indicates a performance support problem – but what kind? Quick guides, tools, recap of the steps, managerial support…?
  • Did do it but then stopped and went back to the old ways – indicates a habit-making problem: probably because interventions have not effectively engaged the audience nor worked with them over time to build up new habits that stick, helping them make it their own

Often, a learning project has a combination of these problems, and they all need addressing to make it a success. (But they don’t all have to be met with digital content, even though there are lots of ways to do this).

This Elucidat-powered learning experience created by the OU makes people question their perception of truth, and motivates the public to find out more about forensic science. 

4. What is likely to actually help people make change/improvement?

Now we’re talking. With a good grip on the audience, their challenges, where they need to get and what’s stopping them, you can get thinking about the type of intervention or approach that will help. It might simply be a curation of videos that already exist, pulled together into a useful on the job guide.  Or, if the problem is one of skills or competence, it could be a smartly designed personal planning tool that enables learners to evaluate where they are and set targets for themselves, which then serves up a range of digital challenges that build up competence over time. Don’t just lean toward the course.

5. What’s worked before (and what didn’t)?

Data is at your fingertips, so it seems crazy not to use it to shape your next design. Your Analytics dashboards tell you all kinds of useful stats about live courses – engagement stats, devices used, location accessed from, drop off points and more.

Plus, if you dropped in a survey to your Elucidat content, you’ll also see how learners rated it – as well as any comments they’ve made – via the Your Data tab in Analytics.

An example of how we quickly capture feedback in our own Masterclasses.

6. What one thing are you going to do really well?

If you’re going to create something, make it really count. Focus in on a key goal and make the digital learning truly engaging and ultra-efficient. Learners will thank you for streamlined, targeted resources or experiences that help them fix a problem, grow their thinking or change what they do. That’s not to say that everything must become short – nor, indeed, shallow. Depth and challenge is needed for complex or long-term skill development. Our call here is to make the audience’s investment pay off by bringing about results in a focused area – a couple of quick wins plus one focused longer term behavior change.

7. Are you sure they need you to actually create something for them?

Do you really need to go away and create content for your chosen digital learning experience? Be smart, and consider if you can empower those who know to create tips, examples and guides directly in your collaborative tool. Curate content that already exists, such as job aids or videos – that you can drop straight into Elucidat. Or, think less along the lines of content, and more along the lines of personal planning tools and diagnostics. Through asking savvy questions and Elucidat’s smart handling of live data, serve up a personalized action plan, FitBit style, for them to follow.

Okay, then what?

With a crystal clear picture of what’s needed, we like to map out the big picture of our designs and sometimes test out ideas with rapid prototypes. You can see examples in this post. And sometimes, we’re ready to get stuck straight in with authoring.

For a step by step guide to elearning development take a look at this detailed guide.

Final thoughts

Taking just a few hours to pull back and get a clear concept in mind enables you to take a smarter, more honed approach to your design that focuses on outcomes.

If you do get drawn into content early on, try to filter out what’s high priority and what’s really relevant to driving a specific outcome.

Download the Capture Needs Template to help with your next elearning project

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